Photographer Douglas Drouin captures the Christie Mountain wildfire above homes in Heritage Hills on Aug. 18.

Penticton Search and Rescue called into action as Christie Mountain wildfire sparks

PENSAR assisted in alerting more than 700 residents of evacuations

Now on its fourth day, the 2,000-hectare Christie Mountain wildfire has 132 personnel on-site, but that doesn’t include those working behind the scenes to ensure evacuees and residents on evacuation alert are safe.

Volunteer members of the Penticton Search and Rescue (PENSAR) were one of the teams called to attend the wildfire when it first sparked on Tuesday (Aug. 18) afternoon.

“The regional district asked for PENSAR’s assistance to help with the evacuation order, which was happening down at Heritage Hills,” Randy Brown, a search manager with PENSAR said.

Brown said the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen (RDOS) also asked Oliver-Osoyoos and Kelowna search and rescue teams to help them, with over 30 volunteers answering the call.

Over the course of three and a half hours, volunteers went door-to-door in the evacuation order zone, taping up properties and asking residents to pack up and leave.

READ MORE: “We’ll have to see”: Painted Rock Winery’s future uncertain as Christie Mountain fire rages

And, when the evacuation alert was activated for Southeast Penticton, volunteers shifted gears immediately, again going door-to-door to remind people to be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.

“I think our whole team covered between 700 and 800 residences in total,” Brown said.

“Right now, we have people down at the (PENSAR) hall and we’re doing pre-planning. We’ve been in contact with the police, and B.C. Wildfire and we’re already done mapping out and creating assignments, so if there’s an evacuation order either at Valleyview or Wiltse, Sendero Canyon areas, we’re going to be prepared with the resources to put in the field to get people out of those areas.”

Brown and other PENSAR volunteers also live in evacuation alert areas, which is another thing for them to keep in mind he said.

“The first thing we paged out last night was ‘make sure you look after your families first’. Make sure you have your gear and your mementos together. My family lives in the area, and they’ve got a plan together.”

“I think all of us are just a little anxious right now – do we really want to see this? I went through the 2003 (fire) and I don’t want to go through it again,” he said.

READ: Winds will be a challenge for Christie Mountain wildfire


Twila Amato
Video journalist, Black Press Okanagan
Email me at twila.amato@blackpress.ca
Follow me on Twitter

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